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Olympics: Offer of North Korea-U.S. Talks Points to Winter Games Peace Dividend

North Korea may be willing to hold formal talks with the U.S., it emerged Sunday night in South Korea, during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

The announcement came after North Korean Gen. Kim Yong-chol met South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the closing event. It is not clear whether the U.S. will agree. At the opening ceremony more than two weeks ago, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence declined the chance to meet the visiting North Korean political contingent.

Rumors suggested that politicians from North and South Korea, two nations still technically at war, have also agreed to further talks. If confirmed, that would amount to a real peace dividend, emerging from the recent “Olympic truce.”

The putting aside of individual tears, disappointments and political differences seemed to be a common theme. South Korean organizers put on another spectacular ceremony that mixed pomp, pride, medal presentations and an air of wintry fun.

As at the opening, North Korean politicians were once again in the audience. So too was Ivanka Trump, daughter of the U.S. president. And the two Koreas attended again as a united Team Korea.

Athletes marched into the stadium after a quick parade of flagbearers. It was still a national parade, and more so than at previous Games ceremonies, but the whole thing was more playful than the opening.

Jessie Diggins carried the flag for Team USA. The U.S. Olympic Committee may be set for some kind of internal inquiry after bringing its largest ever delegation but coming in fourth with 23 medals, including nine golds. That was far fewer than the 37 medals projected. Ahead of the ceremony, though, such thoughts were left on the sidelines.

“I look at it and I go, ‘OK, medals are one story, but if you look at the depth of everything that’s going on, and the number of people who are fourth and fifth place, and the commitment level and intensity of the athletes, you can’t ask for more than that,” USOC chief of performance Alan Ashley told international media.

The medal table was topped by a remarkable Norwegian team, which earned 39 medals (14 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze) followed by Germany. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen, 37, collected her eighth Olympic gold at one of two medal presentations included in the closing ceremony.

Nevertheless, the ceremony missed an opportunity to put right some of the wrongs of the 2014 games in Sochi, when dozens of Russians were awarded medals but were subsequently stripped of them for doping. The rightful winners were not acknowledged at the Pyeongchang closing ceremony.

Instead, the closing ceremony mashed up spectacular synchronized dance routines, digital technology and bombastic speeches. A squadron of drones was used to make clever and cute patterns in the night sky, including a friendly teddy bear.

Vivaldi’s “Winter” was rocked up and performed at pace on an electric guitar played by a 13-year-old girl, accompanied by an orchestra of traditional and modern instruments. Other music sequences mixed up Disney-like showtunes and Koreanized-Americana.

K-pop was, inevitably, on show. It was played over a video clip recalling several medal-winning performances. Later, female star CL, wearing a wintry bondage costume, tried to rouse the 35,000 spectators, who were still largely invisible behind a 360-degree LED system. Male K-pop supergroup EXO was one of the last acts to take to the stage. They played their hit tune “Power.”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach made the traditional final call for the youth of the world to reassemble in Beijing in four years, for the 2022 Winter Games.

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